INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Dec. 30, 2015)- Citizens Energy Group is one step closer to raising your water bills by five dollars a month. Wednesday, the utility and a state consumer agency announced a settlement in a highly-publicized rate hike case.
Citizens Energy Group filed for the increase back in June. The utility wanted to increase water bills by roughly six dollars a month. The settlement would allow for a five dollar a month increase. Sewer bills could substantially go up too, in an additional rate hike case that is still pending.
“It is always more and more,” said Larry Patton.
Patton wasn’t too thrilled when FOX59 told him Wednesday water bills could go up five dollars a month in the new year.
At a public hearing in September, Indianapolis residents made it known they didn’t like the increase either.
“The system is so old, and we just simply need to replace some of these old water mains,” said Dan Considine, with Citizens Energy Group, “We believe this agreement balances the need to keep our rates affordable with the need to invest in our infrastructure.”
The utility said water mains in the city are at least 100 years old.
There are about 700 water main breaks a year, and each costs $6,000 to fix. The utility said they are made worst by Indiana’s weather, featuring extreme cold to extreme heat and drought conditions.
“It is important that this rate increase generates some additional revenue, so we can reinvest in our system to make it more reliable while at the same time making investments to ensure adequate water supply for future generations,” said Considine.
The settlement announced Wednesday is subject to state regulatory approval before it is official. As part of that settlement, the utility will start a low-income crisis fund, a first of its kind for water bills, Considine said.
Citizens Utility Group will contribute at least $100,000 per year.
“We think this crisis fund that we’re going to create is an important first step to helping water customers pay their bill,” he said.
The utility has a case pending to raise sewer rates as well, to fix the city’s sewer system which can overflow with the slightest amount of rain.
“Every time it rains as little as a quarter of an inch, it overflows into our rivers and streams,” said Considine, “We are under a federal order to correct that problem over the next ten years.”
The utility said if approved, the sewer increase would be fifteen dollars a month in 2016 and an additional three dollars a month in 2017.
But some like Patton said the increases across the board are simply unfair.
“It ought to be in their budget. They ought to have money in their budget to take care of stuff when needs come up,” he said.
A public hearing on the sewer increase case is scheduled for January 12th.